Whether you’re traveling across the globe or headed out on a quick weekend getaway, a thoughtfully designed travel pack can help you stay comfortable and organized while on the move. Key considerations include carry-on compatibility for air travel, enough capacity to stash your belongings, pack weight, and preferences on storage and organizational layouts. Below we break down the best travel backpacks of 2022, ranging from minimalist options for a couple nights away to larger bags with removable daypacks for extended trips. For more background information, see our detailed comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
- Best Overall Travel Backpack: Topo Designs Global Travel Bag
- A Close Second (That's Great for Carrying Electronics): Peak Design Travel Backpack
- Excellent Carrying Comfort for Gear-Intensive Trips: Osprey Porter 46
- Best Weekend Travel Backpack: Cotopaxi Allpa 28L
- Best High-Capacity Travel Pack for Long Trips: REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+
- Best Budget Travel Backpack: Amazon Basics Carry-on Travel Backpack
Best Overall Travel Backpack
Dimensions: 22.5 x 14 x 7.5 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 10.4 oz.
Other size: 30L
What we like: Seemingly limitless organization, stylish, and very thick materials in a carry-on-friendly package.
What we don’t: Complex build and straps could be a little more cushioned.
When compiling our list of the best travel packs, we prioritized functional organization, easy on-the-go access, durable materials, and carry-on compatibility. Topo Designs’ Global Travel Bag checks all those boxes emphatically, earning it our top spot for 2022. What immediately stood out about this pack was the sheer number of pockets and attachment points, from the vertical daisy chain webbing on the front to the expandable side water bottle pockets, ample zippered storage inside and out, a laptop sleeve along the backpanel, and several interior mesh pockets. For reference, on a recent trip to Patagonia, we had no issue fitting and effectively organizing two weeks’ worth of clothing, toiletries, chargers, and other accessories inside the 40-liter Global Travel Bag—and we certainly didn’t pack light.
That said, the Global Travel Bag’s extensive feature set does add some complexity when it comes to organization. We like the big clamshell opening to the main compartment, but we wound up having to reorganize to make everything fit into the various compartments (they're optimized for Topo Designs’ modular PackFast accessories, which are smaller than our standard packing cubes). We also wished there were a little more padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt while walking through big airports with the pack stuffed to the brim, but it distributed the load pretty well (and the hipbelt can be tucked away when not in use). In the end, no pack is perfect, but the Global Travel Bag puts it all together better than most, including thoughtful storage, easy access and portability, and exceptionally durable materials in a very stylish and modern package.
See the Topo Designs Travel Backpack
A Close Second (That's Great for Carrying Electronics)
Dimensions: 22 x 13 x 9.5 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 8 oz.
Other size: 30L
What we like: Easy to access, expandable design, and thoughtful feature set.
What we don’t: Expensive, a little heavy, and too techy for some.
Peak Design’s Travel Backpack may look relatively unassuming on the outside, but don’t be fooled: This bag is packed with thoughtful travel-ready features. First is the expandable design, which allows you to alternate between 35 and 45 liters by simply zipping or unzipping the frontmost zipper. Access is another highlight, including entry points at the top, side, front, and rear for easily retrieving items pretty much anywhere in the pack. Storage is also excellent with padded laptop and tablet sleeves, a divisible main compartment, large and stretchy dual side pockets (not common on travel packs), and multiple interior pockets. And it’s all wrapped up in a thick nylon canvas shell that’s durable, streamlined, and very modern.
What complaints do we have about the Peak Design Travel Backpack? Price is the most glaring downside: At $300, it’s tied with the Nomatic Travel Pack below as the most expensive option on our list. Further, while the bag is undeniably sleek, it’s pretty utilitarian-looking and less everyday-friendly than more vibrant options like the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag above and Cotopaxi Allpa below. It’s also on the heftier end for the capacity at around 4.5 pounds, making it the heaviest option on our list (although the spread isn’t huge). Finally, the Travel Backpack is technically not carry-on compliant when expanded, measuring 22 x 13 x 11 inches (the standard U.S. domestic carry-on limit is 22 x 14 x 9 in.). But it works at the compressed 35-liter size (or smaller 30L option), and photographers in particular will love the shape, which nicely accommodates multiple camera cubes, lenses, and other accessories.
See the Peak Design Travel Backpack
Excellent Carrying Comfort for Gear-Intensive Trips
Dimensions: 21.5 x 14 x 9 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 4.2 oz.
Other sizes: 30, 65L
What we like: Practical, generous storage, and purpose-built for adventure travel.
What we don’t: We wish there was a women's-specific variation.
Osprey is a leader in the backpacking pack market, and much of that technology and expertise has trickled down nicely into their travel pack collection. The Porter 46 is case in point, combining the impressive carrying comfort that the brand is known for with a practical, carry-on-friendly build and feature set for travel. Starting at the outside, you get a solid framesheet with well-cushioned shoulder and hipbelt straps that feel reminiscent of Osprey’s backpacking designs, a handy compression system to effectively cinch things down, lockable zippers for the main compartment and laptop sleeve, and a padded handle at the side that doubles as a pass-through point for stacking onto a rolling suitcase. The inside is a similar story with ample pockets of varying sizes, compressions traps to keep clothes tidy, and padded sidewalls to help protect valuables during travel.
Despite offering 6 more liters of capacity than our top-ranked Topo Designs Global Travel Bag (for a considerable $69 less), the Porter 46 is still carry-on compliant, making it the largest option here that still meets most domestic and international airline restrictions. It’s also impressively sturdy and durable and includes reinforced cord loops to attach to Osprey's well-built Daylight daypack (sold separately). Some women may find the shoulder straps to be a little stiff and under-supportive for comfortably carrying a full load, but the unisex sizing is standard in the travel market (Osprey’s own Farpoint/Fairview below is one of the few designs to come in a separate women’s model). In the end, if it fits you well, the Porter offers a hard-to-beat mix of capacity, features, and comfort for the price, making it our favorite option for longer, gear-intensive adventures.
See the Osprey Porter 46
Best Weekend Travel Backpack
Dimensions: 19 x 12 x 9 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz.
Other sizes: 35, 42L
What we like: Very tough, dual access to the main compartment, and fun styling.
What we don’t: No load lifters, water bottle storage, or exterior compression straps.
Cotopaxi’s bright, multi-colored designs put them on the map, and their Allpa 28L travel pack follows suit with vibrant styling and fun accents. But that’s purely cosmetic, and the Allpa has a lot more going for it than just looks. First is the exceptionally durable construction, which is a mix of 1,000-denier, TPU-coated polyester and panels of 840-denier ballistic nylon. In use, we found the Allpa to be remarkably tough and highly water-resistant, and the pack also comes with a stowable rain cover for truly inclement weather. We also love the dual access to the main compartment, including a full wraparound zipper and secondary side zip next to the backpanel for easily retrieving items while on the move. Overall, the Allpa is well made, stylish, and very nicely appointed for travel.
What’s not to like with the Cotopaxi Allpa? While the 28-liter variation is nicely sized for weekend trips, it can’t accommodate much more than a few days’ worth of clothing and gear (Cotopaxi does sell larger 35 and 42L versions that are still carry-on friendly). Further, while overall carrying comfort is good, there are no load-lifter straps to bring the pack closer to your body. Additionally, the interior pockets are a little awkwardly sized, and the lack of external compression straps makes it hard to secure bulkier loads. A final omission is water bottle storage, although it’s not a critical feature for most and does little to dampen our enthusiasm for an otherwise well-rounded and great-looking bag.
See the Cotopaxi Allpa 28L
Best High-Capacity Travel Pack for Long Trips
Dimensions: 27 x 14 x 9 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 1 oz.
Other sizes: 18, 28, 40L
What we like: Massive capacity with a removable and functional 20-liter daypack.
What we don’t: Doesn’t meet carry-on size requirements.
The packs above are great for vacationers and travelers headed out for a week or two, but those embarking on longer trips abroad will almost certainly need more storage and capacity. Enter REI Co-op’s Ruckpack 60+. The “+” designation refers to the included 20-liter daypack, which can be attached to the front of the main pack for a whopping 80 liters of storage or used separately for around-town adventures once you reach your destination. Importantly, both come well appointed: The daypack boasts a dedicated tablet/hydration sleeve and water bottle pockets, while the main pack has great cushioning along the straps and backpanel, a functional compression and daisy chain system, easy access via the zippered back or side panels, water bladder storage, and even trekking pole attachments and a stowable rain cover. It's all wrapped up in a thoughtful and sustainable package, including recycled and bluesign-approved fabrics.
All that said, there’s one glaring downside to opting for a larger-capacity design like the REI Ruckpack 60+: It doesn’t meet most carry-on size requirements. For reference, the standard domestic carry-on limit within the U.S. is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, while the REI measures 27 x 14 x 9. Another notable complaint is that the daypack obscures the pack’s main compartment zipper when attached, making it tedious to access your belongings. Even so, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-appointed travel pack for less, making the Ruckpack our favorite high-capacity pick of the year. Of note, it’s also offered in a smaller 40-liter option for $50 less, although only the 18- and 22-liter variations meet carry-on restrictions.
See the REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ See the Women's REI Ruckpack 60+
Best Budget Travel Backpack
Dimensions: 21.5 x 15.75 x 8.25 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 10.2 oz.
Other sizes: 25, 35L
What we like: Good capacity and organization for far less than the competition.
What we don’t: Lacking in padding and support for shuttling heavy loads; no lockable zippers.
Travel packs are an expensive bunch, but Amazon makes an affordable but still surprisingly capable option in their Carry-On Travel Backpack. We’ll start with the good news: As its name implies, the bag is carry-on compliant, and it comes with most of the standard features we look for in a practical travel pack. These include a zippered laptop sleeve, internal and external compression straps, easy-access pockets for travel documents, and good organization in the main compartment. Like the Peak Design Travel Backpack above, the Amazon Basics can also be expanded to boost packing space while still meeting carry-on restrictions. And at just $56 at the time of publishing, the 45-liter Carry-On Travel Backpack is a great value for what you get, undercutting most similarly sized models on this list by $100 or more.
Now for the bad news: This Amazon Basics pack is far less capable than many of the picks here for shuttling a full load. The shoulder straps are lightly padded, while the hipbelt is a thin and basic webbing design that won’t feel comfortable under the weight of a full pack. The rest of the design has a cheaper feel too, including a shiny and dated-looking exterior, a lot of plastic (read: breakable) components, and standard, non-lockable zippers (a big oversight, in our opinion). You don’t get dedicated water bottle storage either, which isn’t a necessary feature but certainly is nice to have. But if you’re an occasional traveler and aren’t yet ready to make such a sizable investment, the Amazon Basics pack is a perfectly serviceable entry-level option at a great price.
See the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack
Best of the Rest
Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 9 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 2.7 oz.
Other sizes: 55, 70L
What we like: Great carrying comfort and streamlined design at a good price.
What we don’t: Smaller and less durable than the Porter above; stowing the backpack harness can be a hassle.
We covered Osprey’s Porter above, and their Farpoint is another highly comfortable and well-built design at a good price. On our recent trip to Patagonia, our tester was particularly impressed by the Farpoint’s accommodating but streamlined shape, which managed to swallow all of his camera equipment in addition to clothing and other accessories while still fitting into the overhead compartment during air travel (the external compression straps helped a lot). Despite being on the thinner end at 210 denier, the body of the pack also proved to be hardwearing and durable while keeping overall weight in check. And unlike most of the competition (including Osprey’s own Porter collection), the Farpoint is sold in a dedicated women’s model called the Fairview with more contoured shoulder straps and a curved hipbelt.
Our biggest gripe with the Osprey Farpoint 40 relates to the zippered flap at the bottom of the backpanel that’s designed to stash the shoulder straps and hipbelt when not in use. Specifically, it’s pretty awkward to roll away and secure back in its compartment with the Velcro attachments, although our tester did find the multiple carry options—including backpack, suitcase-style, or over-the-shoulder—useful when transferring between hostels in El Chaltén (which he did almost daily during our trip). Another downside is that some of the smaller compartments become fairly unusable when the bag is at full capacity, including the narrow front mesh pockets that can’t accommodate bulkier items like water bottles, even when the bag is empty. But if you pack strategically and don’t mind the added effort when alternating between carry methods, the Farpoint 40 stands out as an impressively comfortable and streamlined travel companion.
See the Osprey Farpoint 40 See the Women's Osprey Fairview 40
Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.13 x 8.75 in.
Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Other size: 55L
What we like: Functional organization inside and out; offered in two sizes.
What we don’t: Brand new and unproven compared to many time-tested options here.
Eagle Creek first started making packs in the mid 1970s, and their Tour 40L travel pack clearly reflects that longstanding history in the market. Upon packing the Tour for the first time, we were immediately impressed by its highly practical design. The bag has great exterior storage, including a stretchy side water bottle pocket and expansion zipper for 5 liters of additional capacity in the main compartment. Additionally, the book-style opening provides quick access to the contents of the bag, and interior and exterior compression straps make it easy to snug things down. We also appreciate that it comes in two torso sizes (S/M and M/L) for maximizing fit, which is uncommon in the travel pack market and a really nice surprise at this price point.
Other notable features on the Eagle Creek Tour 40L include side and top grab handles for easy loading and carrying, an integrated rain cover that stows away at the bottom and doubles as a backpanel cover if you check the bag, puncture-resistant and lockable zippers that are easy to operate even with gloves, and good overall carrying comfort. It’s not the toughest design out there—the water bottle pocket started to fray on our pack after just one trip—but uses durable 600-denier polyester elsewhere and is reasonably hardwearing overall. Other than being brand new and relatively unproven compared to the other options here, the Tour strikes us as a fantastic and well-rounded travel pack and may very well see a jump in rankings during a future update.
See the Eagle Creek Tour 40L
Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 in.
Weight: 2 lbs. 14.9 oz.
Other sizes: 18, 25, 30L
What we like: Very comfortable to carry and separate compartment for dirty clothes.
What we don’t: Split-case design limits storage space; slightly pricier and less durable than the Osprey packs above.
Like Osprey, Gregory is a leader in the hiking and backpacking markets, and their Border Carry-On 40 retains many of their well-loved technical features in a travel-friendly design. The big news here is the pack’s split-case design, which creates two distinct areas within the main compartment accessed via one large, clamshell-style opening. On one side, a zippered mesh panel with added zippered storage and compression straps keeps your clothing and some accessories organized, while an odor-resistant “ActiveShield” compartment at the opposite side effectively separates dirty clothes. As expected from Gregory, carrying comfort is also great with good adjustability at the sternum, a well-cushioned backpanel, and thick straps. You don’t get load lifters for bringing the pack closer to your body, but we didn’t have any issues, even when running through the Montreal airport to a connecting flight en route to Patagonia.
That said, the Gregory Border Carry-On’s split-case design does have a noteworthy pitfall: With both compartments zipped, storage feels pretty limited. Unzipping the larger mesh panel does help maximize space (especially when stuffing the pack to the brim), but it also defeats the purpose of the dual compartments. Compared to the competition, the Border is also a little pricier and less durable than options like the Osprey Porter 46 and Farpoint 40 above, although the rest of the feature set stacks up similarly. In the end, it’s another comfortable and well-built travel pack, and the split-case design has its merits for those who pack light.
See the Gregory Border Carry-On 40
Dimensions: 20.5 x 13 x 9.1 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 3 oz.
Other size: 28L
What we like: Premium build quality; removable rolltop bag is handy for dirty clothes.
What we don’t: Hipbelt sold separately; another unproven design.
Swedish brand Thule is best known for their bike and roof racks, but they make sneaky-good packs too. Our favorite in their collection this year is the new 40-liter Aion, which combines the premium build quality that Thule is known for with a nice assortment of travel-ready features. One unique—but very functional—addition is the removable TPU rolltop bag for stashing dirty laundry, which prevents odors and dirt from making their way to the rest of your belongings. The rest of the design is nicely appointed, including dedicated water bottle storage, an easy-to-access clamshell opening, plenty of zippered spaces for electronics and valuables (including a padded laptop/tablet sleeve), internal compressions straps to keep items secure and tidy, lockable zippers, and carry-on-compliant dimensions.
What pushes the Thule Aion down to a mid-pack finish? At this price point and capacity, we’re surprised to see that the bag doesn’t come with a hipbelt. You can purchase Thule’s compatible Aion sling bag separately, which can pull double-duty for around-town use, but it’s a fairly expensive addition at $50 (and a feature we consider critical for a pack of this size). To be fair, the rest of the build is very well executed, including a noticeably thick and robust 600-denier waxed canvas shell and PFC-free DWR coating for fending off moisture. If you don’t mind the added investment for the waist belt/sling bag, it’s a promising new design with competitive specs to match. Of note, if you’re looking for something a little different for travel, the Aion collection also includes a roller bag and a 35-liter duffel.
See the Thule Aion Travel Pack
Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.8 x 8.7 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz.
Other sizes: 35, 55L
What we like: Anti-theft technology and cut-resistant fabrics add a nice dose of assurance.
What we don’t: Expensive and prioritizes safety features over carrying comfort.
Travel can be an exhausting endeavor, especially if you’re constantly worried about your luggage or valuables getting stolen. That’s why anti-theft designs like Pacsafe’s Venturesafe EXP45 are becoming increasingly common, particularly for international trips. Like most of Pacsafe’s offerings, the Venturesafe EXP45 is packed with protective features, from cut-resistant materials to lockable and puncture-resistant double zippers and built-in stainless steel cable locks. Importantly, these are nicely integrated and don’t detract too heavily from the Venturesafe’s functionality as a travel pack—it’s still well organized with ample interior and exterior pockets and compression straps, offers multiple carry options, and is carry-on compliant.
All that said, the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 is a pretty niche design that prioritizes safety over things like carrying comfort and access. The pack is on the heavier end at nearly 4 pounds due to all of the protective features, the handles are underbuilt for carrying as a suitcase, the padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt is noticeably firm (albeit decently thick), and there are no load-lifter straps to pull the pack closer to your body while on the move. Another downside is that the laptop sleeve is positioned at the front of the bag—we prefer when heavier items are situated close to the back for better weight distribution—and accessing items here can be difficult due to the half-length zipper design (we wish it had a clamshell opening like the main compartment). In other words, comfort- and convenience-focused travelers will likely want to look elsewhere, but the Pacsafe has its place for those who prioritize safety and security.
See the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45
Dimensions: 21.5 x 13 x 9.8 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 2.7 oz.
Other sizes: 60, 70L
What we like: More adventure-ready than the Aion above; sold in a women’s version.
What we don’t: Hard to access the interior while wearing the pack; SafeZone compartment is noticeably bulky.
The second Thule model to make our list this season is their 40-liter Landmark, which shares a lot in common with their Aion above. In terms of similarities, both packs retail for $200, are carry-on compatible, boast 40-liter capacities, have very durable and hardwearing exteriors, and weigh around the same. However, the Landmark is built more like a backpacking pack than a travel bag, including a more body-hugging shape and the inclusion of a hipbelt (the Aion’s is sold separately). It also comes with added safety features like a concealed area for small valuables with a separate CashStash compartment for money and passports. Finally, the Landmark is one of only two models on our list that’s offered in a dedicated women’s-specific version (along with the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview above).
Why do we rank Thule’s Aion higher? While we like the Landmark’s well-padded SafeZone compartment for stashing electronics, it’s thick, bulky, and only accessible when the pack is being worn or sitting upright (if laid flat to access the main compartment, this area is almost impossible to reach into). On-the-go access is another concession: The only accessible areas when wearing the Landmark are the aforementioned SafeZone compartment at the top and laptop sleeve along the backpanel. For comparison, you can retrieve items from the Aion’s main compartment by using the handy grab handle at the side, which the Landmark lacks. However, if you like the backpack style and don’t mind the limited access while on the move, the Landmark is another thoughtfully built and durable travel design from Thule.
See the Thule Landmark See the Women's Thule Landmark
Dimensions: 18.5 x 12 x 9.5 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 2.6 oz.
Other sizes: None
What we like: Almost all the features we look for in a thoughtfully built travel pack.
What we don’t: Very pricey for the capacity; hipbelt sold separately.
Many of the picks above are built by reputable backpacking manufacturers, but Nomatic is a travel company first. Their flagship Travel Pack embodies that focus, combining thoughtful organization and storage with easy access in a sleek and minimalist package. Feature highlights include an expandable design that allows you to alternate between 20 and 30 liters of capacity, a nicely divided accessory compartment at the front, functional cord pass-through points for charging electronics, a lockable RFID pocket for passports and other scannable documents, and a hidden compartment for valuables at the backpanel. We also love the TSA-ready flap for a laptop and other electronics, which easily separates from the main compartment for getting through security quicker.
What’s not to like about the Nomatic Travel Pack? First is the smaller 30-liter maximum capacity, which Nomatic estimates is sufficient for trips of just one to three days. Second is the $300 price tag, which is tied for the most expensive on our list along with the 15-liter-larger Peak Design Travel Backpack above. Finally, the Travel Pack doesn’t come with a waist strap, which is a notable downside for support and carrying comfort. Nomatic does sell one separately for $30, but we consider it a requisite feature (it’s no coincidence that almost every other pack here comes with a hipbelt). If you’re mainly a weekend traveler and willing to make the investment, however, the Nomatic stands out for its intentional organizational layout and travel-ready feature set, earning it a spot on our list.
See the Nomatic Travel Pack
Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 12 in.
Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz.
Other sizes: 30, 60+L
What we like: Robust fabrics, multiple carry options, and nicely divided interior.
What we don’t: A little heavy and pricey for what you get.
Along with Osprey’s Porter 46 above, Mystery Ranch’s Mission Rover 45 is a great option for those of us who aren’t particularly adept at packing light. Touted as a “workhorse gear hauler,” the Mission Rover offers three functional carry options (as a suitcase, shoulder bag, or standard backpack), has a well-organized main compartment with zippered dividers and a wraparound clamshell opening, and even includes separate areas for shoes and dirty laundry. As expected at this price point, you also get most of the standard travel-ready features that we look for, including a stowable hipbelt, lockable zippers, a sleeve to secure to a rolling suitcase, and a padded laptop space that can accommodate computers up to 15 inches wide. Finally, like many of Mystery Ranch's backpacking offerings, the Mission Rover has a premium feel with a thick nylon exterior and water-resistant YKK zippers.
However, as with the Osprey Farpoint and Pacsafe Venturesafe above, the Mission Rover’s laptop sleeve is situated at the front of the pack, which detracts from carrying comfort and convenience. The Mystery Ranch is also on the heavier and pricier end of the spectrum at 4 pounds 4 ounces and $225 respectively, although the 45-liter capacity is undeniably generous (and the pack is still compliant with most carry-on size restrictions). Finally, the bag is relatively dated-looking and lacking in modern appeal compared to offerings from Topo Designs, Peak Design, Cotopaxi, and others above. In other words, the Mission Rover doesn’t stand out in any one area, but it’s another durable travel pack with a nicely executed feature set.
See the Mystery Ranch Mission Rover 45
Dimensions: 18.1 x 12.6 x 10.6 in.
Weight: 3 lbs. 10.2 oz.
Other size: 20L
What we like: Thick canvas build and sleek Scandinavian styling.
What we don’t: Minimal padding and support, no hipbelt, and on the smaller side.
Fjallraven is known for their chic Scandinavian styling and durable G-1000 fabric, and their Travel Pack follows suit with sleek looks and a noticeably hardwearing exterior. As we’ve come to expect from the brand, attention to detail is excellent, from the premium-feeling leather carrying handle to the highly durable and water-resistant polyester/cotton body. Most of the other features we look for are there too, including a generous laptop compartment with separate pockets for travel documents, ample interior storage, stowable shoulder straps, foam padding for structure, and a clamshell-style opening for unrestricted access to the main compartment.
That said, Fjallraven is less of a leader in the backpacking market than competitors like Osprey and Gregory, and that’s readily apparent when it comes to carrying comfort. Namely, the Travel Pack’s shoulder straps are minimally padded and lacking in support compared to picks like the Porter, Farpoint, and Border Carry-On above. Like the Nomatic above and Patagonia Black Hole below, the Fjallraven also lacks a hipbelt, which is valuable for extended periods of walking through airports or city streets. Finally, at 35 liters, the Travel Pack is on the smaller side and will require precise packing to accommodate more than about three to five days’ worth of clothing and other travel accessories. But to be fair, the Fjallraven is one of the best-looking packs here and well built for everything from short vacations to overnight business trips.
See the Fjallraven Travel Pack
Dimensions: 22 x 10.5 x 6.75 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 12.6 oz.
Other size: 25L
What we like: The lightest pack on our list.
What we don’t: Also one of the smallest and least feature-rich.
Patagonia’s Black Hole is legendary in the world of duffel bags, and the 32L travel pack variation shares that bag’s excellent durability and good looks in a more organized and carry-on-friendly design. Like the duffels, the Black Hole Pack is made of light but strong polyester ripstop that’s highly tear-resistant with a TPU film on the exterior for fending off precipitation. Patagonia also managed to keep weight impressively low at just 1 pound 12.6 ounces, making the Black Hole the lightest option on our list—great for long days of exploring a new city or navigating multiple airports en route to an international destination.
Why do we rank the Patagonia Black Hole 32L here? In addition to being on the small end in terms of capacity at just 32 liters, the pack lacks a hipbelt and other helpful travel features like lockable zippers and alternate carry methods (it can only be worn as a backpack or carried via its top haul loop). Patagonia does offer a larger MLC 45 variation with a clamshell opening, rear sleeve to attach to a roller bag, and shoulder strap and briefcase handles. But that pack is pricier at $199, heavier at 3 pounds 10.4 ounces, and still forgoes a waist belt, which is even more critical at the larger capacity. All told, both are highly durable and good-looking designs from the well-loved outdoor brand, but the options above are more competitive in the travel market.
See the Patagonia Black Hole 32L
|Travel Pack||Price||Capacity||Dimensions||Weight||Carry on?*||Other sizes|
|Topo Designs Global Travel Bag||$229||40L||22.5 x 14 x 7.5 in.||3 lb. 10 oz.||Yes||30L|
|Peak Design Travel Pack||$300||45L||22 x 13 x 9.5 in.||4 lb. 8 oz.||Yes||30L|
|Osprey Porter 46||$160||46L||21.5 x 14 x 9 in.||3 lb. 4 oz.||Yes||30, 65L|
|Cotopaxi Allpa 28L||$170||28L||19 x 12 x 9 in.||3 lb. 7 oz.||Yes||35, 42L|
|REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+||$199||80L||27 x 14 x 9 in.||4 lb. 1 oz.||No||18, 28, 40L|
|Amazon Basics Carry-On Pack||$56||45L||21.5 x 15.75 x 8.25 in.||3 lb. 10 oz.||Yes||25, 35L|
|Osprey Farpoint 40||$160||40L||21 x 14 x 9 in.||3 lb. 3 oz.||Yes||55, 70L|
|Eagle Creek Tour 40L||$159||40L||20.5 x 13.13 x 8.75 in.||2 lb. 8 oz.||Yes||55L|
|Gregory Border Carry-On 40||$170||40L||22 x 14 x 9 in.||2 lb. 15 oz.||Yes||18, 25, 30L|
|Thule Aion Travel Pack||$200||40L||20.5 x 13 x 9.1 in.||3 lb. 3 oz.||Yes||28L|
|Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45||$240||45L||21.7 x 13.8 x 8.7 in.||3 lb. 13 oz.||Yes||35, 55L|
|Thule Landmark 40L||$200||40L||21.5 x 13 x 9.8 in.||3 lb. 3 oz.||Yes||60, 70L|
|Nomatic Travel Pack||$300||30L||18.5 x 12 x 9.5 in.||4 lb. 3 oz.||Yes||None|
|Mystery Ranch Mission Rover 45||$225||45L||21 x 13 x 12 in.||4 lb. 4 oz.||Yes||30, 60+L|
|Fjallraven Travel Pack||$225||35L||18.1 x 12.6 x 10.6 in.||3 lb. 10 oz.||Yes||20L|
|Patagonia Black Hole 32L||$149||32L||22 x 10.5 x 6.75 in.||1 lb. 13 oz.||Yes||25L|
*Editor's Note: "Carry-on" refers to whether or not each pack meets standard domestic and international air travel restrictions, which must be under 22 x 14 x 9 or 45 linear inches when adding L+W+H.
- Size and Capacity
- Travel Backpack Dimensions
- Organization: Pockets and Main Compartment Access
- Carrying Comfort
- Grab Handles and Alternate Carry Methods
- Other Features
- Construction and Durability
- Fit and Sizing
- Women’s-Specific Travel Backpacks
- Packing Cubes and Other Accessories
- Do You Need a Travel Backpack?
The first question to answer when choosing a travel pack is how much capacity you anticipate needing. For reference, the options above range from 28 liters on the small end (the Cotopaxi Allpa) all the way up to 80 liters for the REI Co-op Ruckpack (with the 20L daypack attached). Most travelers will land on something in the middle, with the sweet spot for many being in the 40- to 45-liter range—it’s no coincidence that well over half of the models above fall into this grouping, which is largely due to their carry-on-compliant dimensions.
In general, we’ve found that packs of this size can easily accommodate a week or two of clothing, toiletries, and other travel accessories (and even more if you pack light). For reference, we had no issues fitting 14 days’ worth of belongings into the 40-liter Topo Designs Global Travel Bag on a recent trip to Patagonia. If you stick to weekend adventures, you can keep things lighter and more compact with an option like the aforementioned Cotopaxi Allpa 28L. On the flip side, those embarking on longer expeditions abroad might need to step up to a larger design like the REI Ruckpack (at the sacrifice of carry-on compatibility).
Dimensions are a crucial consideration for most travelers, and especially those headed abroad. With that in mind, we’ve listed the length, width, and height measurements for each travel pack above both in the write-ups and in our comparison table. As you may notice, similarly sized travel packs don’t vary too considerably in terms of dimensions. This is mainly due to carry-on size restrictions, which we break down more in depth below.
Carry-on Size Restrictions
Right off the bat, we’ll note that there is technically no standardized size requirement for carry-on luggage domestically or abroad. That said, the universally accepted dimensions within the U.S. are 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 linear inches when adding L+W+H. We’ve indicated whether each travel pack above meets these requirements in our comparison table, and REI Co-op does the same on each of their product pages. The only exception above is the REI Ruckpack 60+, which measures 27 x 14 x 9 inches.
It’s also important to call out expandable models here like the Peak Design Travel Backpack, which is carry-on compliant when compressed to 35 liters (22 x 13 x 9.5 in.) but not when expanded to its maximum 45-liter capacity (22 x 13 x 11 in.). You may be able to get away with carrying these bags onboard, but don’t count on it, especially if you’re traveling during peak season to a popular destination. When in doubt, you can always check with your airline ahead of time.
All of the packs above are purpose-built for travel with extensive organizational layouts and thoughtfully placed pockets for separating valuables, electronics, and other accessories. That said, some layouts are more functional than others, and a final decision will largely come down to your intended use and what works best for the items that you plan to bring along. For instance, sleek options like the Peak Design Travel Backpack and Nomatic Travel Pack are great for digital nomads and remote workers who need to organize a lot of electronics, while backpacking-inspired options like the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Porter 46 have fewer tech-focused features but work great for adventure travel. We break down some of the key organizational components below, from laptop and tablet sleeves to water bottle storage and pack opening styles.
Laptop and Tablet Sleeves
Laptop storage is a requisite feature in a travel pack, and all of the picks above come with a dedicated spot to stash larger electronics. In terms of dimensions, most sleeves can accommodate up to a 15-inch laptop, and many come with separate smaller compartments in the same space for a tablet too. This area is typically well padded to protect electronics and positioned along the backpanel for the best access and weight distribution (keeping heavier items closest to your back will help maximize comfort and balance). A few exceptions to this rule are the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45, Mystery Ranch Mission Rover 45, and Osprey Farpoint 40, all of which have the laptop sleeve at the front of the pack and can feel a little less well balanced with heavier electronics situated farther away from your body.
Water Bottle Pockets
Unlike laptop sleeves, side water bottle pockets aren’t a standard feature on travel packs. Some models that include them are the Topo Designs Global Travel Pack, Peak Design Travel Backpack, REI Ruckpack (on its removable daypack), Eagle Creek Tour, and Thule Aion and Landmark, while the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack and Osprey Farpoint leave them out. The Farpoint does sport mesh pockets at the front, but they’re too small and narrow to accommodate bulkier items like bottles (a questionable design choice, in our opinion). It’s also worth noting here that some packs (like the REI Ruckpack) are compatible with a hydration reservoir, including a dedicated sleeve and access port for a tube. However, this area on the Ruckpack doubles as the laptop sleeve, which most travelers will use more frequently.
Opening Styles and Access
Easy access is a hallmark of a good travel backpack. The clamshell-style opening is far and away the most popular design and for good reason: With the pack laid flat, you can easily see and access the entirety of the main compartment. Some backpack-inspired designs like the REI Ruckpack and Osprey Porter 46 utilize generous U-zip designs instead, which are pretty functional but make it a little harder to reach contents at the very bottom of the bags. Others, like Osprey’s Farpoint 40 and Thule’s Landmark 40L, have large zippered front panels that fold back to reveal the interior, although these are typically a little less convenient and more restrictive than clamshells. Finally, it's important to note that some bags come with multiple access points: The Cotopaxi Allpa 28L, for instance, includes both a full wraparound zipper and “shortcut” side zip next to the backpanel for easily retrieving items while on the move.
Comfort can be somewhat subjective, but a few features help certain travel packs stand out from the rest of the market. Typically, the most comfortable designs boast shoulder straps and hipbelts with thick padding and good adjustability for dialing in fit. Sternum and load-lifter straps can also be very helpful in effectively distributing a heavy load. Two brands that stand out in this area are Osprey and Gregory, which makes sense given their expertise in the backpacking pack market. One of our favorite options for shuttling heavy loads over long distances is Osprey’s Porter 46, which features thick cushioning and good adjustability at the shoulders and waist belt and comes with load lifters for bringing the weight closer to your back.
On the flip side, models without hipbelts are generally the least comfortable, especially when wearing them for extended stretches. From the list above, these include the Fjallraven Travel Pack, Patagonia Black Hole, Nomatic Travel Pack, and Thule Aion (you can purchase belts separately for the latter two). Thin webbing designs like what you get with the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack aren’t much better, providing very little support and structure for keeping the weight of the pack on your hips (rather than your back). If you plan to be walking long distances with your pack through airports or city streets, we consider a well-padded waist belt a critical feature and worth the added investment.
The models above are designed to be worn on your back as backpacks, but many travelers appreciate the ability to carry their pack suitcase-style or over the shoulder. These options are especially helpful when standing in line to check in at the airport or retrieve travel documents. For instance, the Peak Design Travel Backpack boasts 360-degree grab handles that make it quick and easy to take the pack off and carry it one-handed through security checkpoints or narrow airplane aisles. Designs like the Osprey Farpoint and Topo Designs Global Travel Bag also come with detachable straps for shoulder carry, which can be helpful when you need to access items inside but want to keep the pack off the ground and remain hands-free. Finally, many of the offerings here can be secured to a roller bag via pass-through sleeves, which we cover more below.
In addition to pockets and electronics sleeves, there are a few other features specific to travel packs that are worth having on your radar. Lockable zippers are standard on most designs (the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack and Patagonia Black Hole 32L are two exceptions), as are removable and/or stowable straps and compression straps or dividers to keep things tidy in the main compartment. As is common with backpacking models, some travel packs also come with built-in rain covers that stow away when not in use, including REI Co-op’s Ruckpack 60+, Cotopaxi’s Allpa 28L, and Eagle Creek’s Tour 40L. Finally, many will appreciate the ability to attach their travel pack directly to a rolling suitcase via a pass-through handle or sleeve (like what you get with Osprey’s Porter 46 and many others above).
Given the inherently rough nature of travel, all of the packs above are well built and hardwearing enough to withstand regular use and abuse. That said, some are certainly more durable than others, and looking at denier (a measurement of fabric thickness) is a good start to help differentiate between models. For instance, the Osprey Porter 46 is pretty average with a mix of 420- and 500-denier (D) materials, while the Cotopaxi Allpa 28L is one of the thickest and most abrasion-resistant options on our list with a combination of 1,000D polyester and 840D ballistic nylon (Topo Designs' Global Travel Bag uses a similar combo but with 1,000D nylon and 1,680D ballistic nylon). Pacsafe’s Venturesafe EXP45 is another standout, with stainless steel wire mesh built into the 400D nylon body to guard against theft. The thinnest option on our list is Patagonia’s Black Hole 32L at 300D, although the polyester body is a ripstop variety and coated with a TPU laminate, both of which help boost resistance to tears and abrasion.
Other durability-related additions to keep an eye out for are thick padding along the interior to promote structure and protect your belongings, weather-resistant details like YKK zippers and DWR coatings on the outside to fend off precipitation, and thicker materials at the base to help protect the pack when you set it down. And we should note here that cost often correlates pretty closely with overall quality. In other words, a budget pack like the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack feels noticeably cheaper than most other options above and will likely wear down far more quickly. If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s almost certainly worth investing in a pricier and more premium option that will last.
The weight spread isn’t huge among travel pack designs, but even a 1-pound difference may still be noticeable during long treks across town or the airport. For reference, the lightest design on our list is Patagonia’s Black Hole Pack 32L at 1 pound 12.6 ounces, while the heaviest is Peak Design’s 45-liter Travel Backpack at 4 pounds 8 ounces. Most models fall somewhere in the middle, with the majority of 40- to 45-liter designs hovering somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds. In the end, weight won’t be a primary consideration for many travelers, but those backpacking through Europe or expecting to cover serious ground will probably want to shop toward the lighter end.
Unlike their backpacking pack counterparts, travel packs are most often only offered in a single unisex option. This can make it difficult to dial in fit, especially for those with particularly narrow or broad builds. One exception above is the Eagle Creek Tour 40L, which is offered in both S/M and M/L torso sizes, while a couple others (which we cover below) are sold in dedicated women’s models for better customizing fit. Regardless of which option you choose, we always recommend trying on multiple packs before buying to see which fits you best (or at least purchasing from a reputable manufacturer with a generous return policy). You’ll want to be sure that you can adjust the shoulder straps and waist belt to be snug around your torso and waist. Sternum straps and load lifters can also be helpful for bringing the load closer to your back to maximize comfort and weight distribution.
As we mentioned above, most travel packs are unisex by design, but a few of the picks above are offered in dedicated women’s-specific versions, including the Osprey Fairview (the Farpoint’s counterpart), REI Co-op Ruckpack, and Thule Landmark. Key differences include varying colorways, minor weight variations, and slightly smaller torso and waist measurements. For example, the unisex Ruckpack can accommodate torsos between 17 and 21 inches and waists between 30 and 53 inches, while the women’s variation fits 15- to 19-inch torsos and 28- to 45-inch waists. The Fairview and Landmark also have more contoured shoulder straps and curved hipbelts to better conform to narrower torsos/shoulders and larger hips. Regardless of designation, we always recommend choosing the pack that fits you best (and importantly, all features on these packs are the same as the unisex versions).
In 2022, it’s pretty common to see pack manufacturers incorporating eco-friendly practices into production, including measures like recycled and bluesign-approved fabrics and PFC-free DWR coatings. A couple examples include Pacsafe’s Venturesafe EXP45, which is built with recycled fishing nets and other discarded nylon, and Patagonia’s Black Hole 32L, which uses recycled and bluesign-approved (i.e., environmentally safe) polyester for the body and lining. It’s also Fair Trade Certified, indicating Patagonia put extra money into production to ensure that workers are being compensated fairly and have access to programs like health care, childcare services, and more. A final feature to look out for is a PFC-free DWR coating found on models like Thule’s Aion Travel Pack, which forgoes the use of harmful perfluorocarbons. If you’re curious how a certain pack is made, most brands are decently transparent about sustainability initiatives and publish them on their product pages, but most of the picks above incorporate at least one of these measures.
Packing your travel pack can often feel like playing a hard game of Tetris, especially for those of us who aren’t great at traveling light (this author included). To help, many of the brands above offer compatible accessories for their packs, from packing cubes to protective hard cases for electronics and more. Importantly, these add-ons are often modular and fit neatly into the main compartment of a compatible backpack. Some of our favorites include Topo Designs’ PackFast Pack Bags and Dopp Kits, Peak Design’s Packing Cubes and Tech Pouches, and Eagle Creek’s Pack-It compression cubes. In the end, these accessories aren't a necessary purchase for many travelers (and you certainly don't need to buy them from the same manufacturer as your pack), but they can go a long way toward maximizing organization and space and streamlining your load.
The packs above make it easy and comfortable to shuttle your belongings across the globe, but not everyone needs a specialized design for travel. Duffel bags are another popular way to fly with a lot of clothing and gear, and many modern designs come with deployable backpack straps for more easily hauling through airports and around urban areas. However, duffels lack the impressive assortment of dedicated storage compartments and pockets for items like keys, passports, and electronics, are generally less comfortable to carry over long distances, and often don’t meet carry-on size requirements.
Alternatively, some travelers may opt to use a standard backpacking pack. This can make a lot of sense when you’re traveling to hike, backpack, or embark on other adventures and plan to use your pack both for travel and for outdoor use when you arrive. Again, however, the lack of travel-specific features and organization options can make it harder to effectively divvy up your belongings. In the end, if you plan to fly domestically or abroad with any regularity (more than a couple times a year), we think most will find the investment in a dedicated travel pack worth it.
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